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Hollywood Hacking

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We should feel lucky if it was this easy.

"Our webs are down, sir. We can't log in!"
"Which webs?"
"All of them."
"They've penetrated our code walls. They're stealing the internet!"
"We'll need to hack all IPs simultaneously."

It is recommended that you spend several minutes practicing your own hacking skills here before continuing down this page.

Real hacking is boring. Hollywood hates boring (sometimes). (But how many real-life hackers would want to be responsible for The CSI Effect?) Instead of exploiting security flaws, you guide a little 3D version of yourself through a fiery maze that somehow represents the firewall, without forgetting to leave a Skull and Crossbones image that takes the entire screen of the hacked computer. Or you run a Password Slot Machine to decrypt the password digit by digit. It's nothing like real hacking, although either way, you may have to use Rapid-Fire Typing. That last part also means that any AI or robot that can directly interface with a computer is automatically the greatest hacker in the universe that can instantly take over any system no matter how secure because it doesn't need to type.


Hollywood Hacking is when some sort of convoluted metaphor is used not only to describe hacking but actually to put it into practice. Characters will come up with rubbish like, "Extinguish the firewall!" and "I'll use the Millennium Bug to launch an Overclocking Attack on the whole Internet!" - even hacking light switches and electric razors, which is even sillier if said electric razor is unplugged. The intent is to employ a form of Artistic License or hand waving which takes advantage of presumed technophobia among the audience. You can also expect this trope to annoy those within the audience whose occupation involves computers or the Internet.

Of course, with computers, this could also fall under much the same heading as And Some Other Stuff; one hardly wants to come under any accusations of informing the audience of how to hack computers.


In Video Games the Hacking Minigame is an Acceptable Break From Reality based on the Rule of Fun ... mainly because who wants to sit there and exploit security flaws when you could use a green tank to shoot stuff?

If the attack brings two computer-savvy users head-to-head, then you've also got Dueling Hackers. See also Hollywood Encryption.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Ed hacks via a school of cute, tiny fish nibbling on screenshots of web pages.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi (the manga, at least) has Chachamaru attempt to hack into the school's computer system, which are represented by pixellated sharks. A student uses an artifact to transport herself into cyberspace and fight them, Magical Girl-style. It's almost certainly a parody of this trope, as she uses legitimate hacking techniques (SYN Flood, a Denial-of-Service attack, etc.) that are simply visualized in ridiculous ways (the DOS attack is a tuna, for example), and the "spells" that she's chanting are Unix shell commands with accurate iptables syntax.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion both an Angel and SEELE attempt to hack into the Tokyo-3 MAGI, and both are repelled by Ritsuko's l33t h@xx0r ski11z with accompanying ridiculous graphical representation.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Made fun of in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series where Kaiba's computer claims to be so advanced it makes hacking look like a boring video game. Said computer also points out how Kaiba seems to be pressing the same keys over and over prompting the latter to claim he learned how to hack by watching old episodes of Star Trek.
    • This concept is revisited in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL when Yuma's sister Akari attempts to track down and destroy a virus, complete with an RPG-style dungeon and a boss battle.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's has a different version; rather than passwords, information is hidden behind duel puzzles (a duel-in-progress is presented and you have limited chances to figure out how to win in one turn). It's an... interesting way of shoehorning duels into episodes that otherwise wouldn't have them. At one point the access to an important database is hidden inside a duel puzzle arcade machine - the person who thought it up claims that nobody would look for a database there, plus he can slack off at the arcade and claim it's for work.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS gets credit for showing the viewers that the camera is skipping the long, boring hours spent staring at pages of programming language, and enough appropriately used Techno Babble to show that the writers have probably skimmed a programming book. It loses credit for abuse of Extreme Graphical Representation and gains a bit of it back when Yusaku's use of older versions of duel disks and physical cards is an actual hacker technique.
  • In Den-noh Coil, even the least eye-catching examples of hacking look suspiciously like Hermetic Magic and Instant Runes (the more visual ones? They involved rockets). In this case, though, it's because a) they're not using the internet at all, but rather Augmented Reality technology and b) the Augmented Reality subculture in the series is dominated mostly by preteen children, the exact sort of people who would try to make hacking as flashy as possible.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has, in Lagann-hen, Lordgenome's head HAACKIIIING into the Cathedral Terra by having a virtual recreation of his body run down a virtual hallway connecting the ships, then running around virtual corridors to find a box, smashing it open with his head and eating the red sphere inside it. Nobody cared about how unrealistic it was in this case because a) it's Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and b) it was hilarious.
    • As silly as it is, everything in this sequence is symbolically representative of real hacking: Lordgenome first breaks through the firewalls, then searches for the file, attempts to open it with a password, fails, and uses a brute force decryption, succeeds and downloads the file.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
    • Firewalls are represented by spheres with shiny, meaningless glyphs on them. But when the characters hack into them, they do it by connecting an intrusion program (which looks sort of like a welding torch) and waiting a while (though it takes only a few seconds of screen time). In one episode, such a software hack was used to distract the target from the Major breaking in and physically connecting to the local network. The creators have noted that the cyberspace doesn't really look like that at all, but it's an entertaining visual representation for the audience's benefit. Even Shirow Masamune acknowledges in the original Ghost in the Shell manga that cyberspace wouldn't have a visual appearance, and he only did so for the sake of entertainment. He created the series before the modern concept of the internet and cyberspace even existed.
    • There are also Defense Barriers, which are firewalls for people's cyberbrains. A firewall designed to protect your very soul (which, having a cyberbrain, means it is now digital data and therefore tangible). Each level of the barrier rotates at varying speeds and opposite directions from each other, and you can pass through them by advancing through a specific hole that shows up when they are properly aligned.
  • Hanaukyō Maid Team has the maid staff trying to prevent a hacker from accessing their system by playing what appears to be a game of Centipede against a spider that's stealing information by walking across the screen and grabbing boxes from a warehouse. When Grace wakes up she defeats the hackers with some quick keystrokes by summoning a giant Pac-Man.
  • Summer Wars features a lot of the Hollywood Hacking staples, such as Rapid-Fire Typing and virtual reality representations for hacking, but it also balances it out with a lot of parts that are grounded in reality (such as the movie's villain, a hacker AI named Love Machine, acting like a botnet program, and doing things the way an actual real-life hacker would do them.) The main silly thing is the giant sequence of digits, apparently meant to be a password hash, which Kenji "solves" on paper in a few hours...then again, in a few minutes...then again, in his head. Leaving aside the nigh-impossibility of reverse-engineering a password from a hash at all, let alone by hand (that's the whole point of hashing passwords before storing them), why would Oz willingly spit the number at anyone trying to hack their way in, especially if it's solvable?
  • In Mission: Yozakura Family, Shion's preferred method of hacking computers converts the entire OS into a video game for her to play and beat based on what she wants it to do.

    Comic Books 
  • Contest of Champions: Spoofed when Night Thrasher tries to hack the Maestro's security systems keeping the heroes and villains imprisoned. Bullseye incredulously points out that you can't just declare you're going to hack something like that, as the scene shifts to Night Thrasher "inside" the system like it's an 80s video game. Before she's even done complaining, he has in fact hacked the system. Because he's Night Thrasher.
  • Batman:
    • Batgirl Barbara Gordon, her villain counterpart The Calculator, and his daughter/her protege Proxy, all dabble into this.
    • Barbara is so good at it, she allows many to mistake her for a super-advanced AI of some kind, which helps protect her identity.
    • In Birds of Prey #126, The Calculator adds an eighth layer to the TCP/IP protocol to set up and access the hidden Internet, the Unternet.
    • As both Red Robin and Robin, Tim Drake displayed a remarkable hacking aptitude, occasionally working under Barbara's tutelage. He was also the first Batfamily member to incorporate a functioning connection to the Batcomputer in his suit as Robin and worked on infiltrating and taking down the Unternet as Red Robin.
  • In the lead up to the Superman storyline The Fall of Metropolis, Lex Luthor is able to intercept a story Lois Lane wrote concerning the truth about his clone body using a special computer chip he made for all of his Lexcorp-brand computers and a simple modem, alter the story to make her a laughingstock and blame her for embezzlement of the Daily Planet's funds.

    Fan Works 
  • A "leaked" version of Michael Bay's script for The Dark Knight (it's fake) contains a hilarious version of this quite close to the Penny Arcade example.
    Bruce: We hack the internet.
    Alfred: Hack the internet?
    Bruce: Yes, hack the internet.
    General: Nobody's ever hacked the internet before.
    Bruce: Well, there's a first for everything.
    General: Okay, I like it, but which one of the internets do we hack?
    Bruce: All of Them.
  • This Buffy the Vampire Slayer parody fic asks the important question, "What if "I Robot, You Jane" was a Hollywood blockbuster hacker movie?"
    Willow: I’ve been trying to modem the wire with a disconnect net number, but the virtual backup is too leet for the digital hackosphere of this coding wipe.
  • The parody fic It Could Be Worse mocks Felicity Smoak's tendency for this, and general status as a Creator's Pet. She rescues Oliver from being overwhelmed by Mooks and then whips out a tablet and "using movements to complicated to do so"...
    "I've used a Java applet to hack into the satellites above the Earth, thus redirecting the path of the sun and the Earth, therefore creating an eclipse. Therefore, your solar-powered suits are no more."
  • Discussed in What Tomorrow Brings. Tom muses that real hacking is much slower than movies would have you believe.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue, the climax involves the old TLW-728 supercomputer, Wittgenstein, wirelessly hacking into things from security gates to personal computers, and even being able to send pure electricity to devices through power outlets; all this despite him being, as the film takes time to point out, severely outdated. Ironically, through all of this, they still take time to point out that you need a modem to get on the Internet.
  • Exaggerated in Wreck-It Ralph. Turbo invades Sugar Rush and attempts to delete Vanellope Von Schweetz from the game code, but can only render her as a glitch and modifies everyone's memory of her so they treat her as a criminal and an outcast.
  • In The Emoji Movie, the character Jailbreak is shown using a form of smartwatch to hack several things. It also displays a firewall as a literal being. Jailbreak is shown "hacking" this by guessing the password at least fifty times.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Masterminds (1997), computer hacking consists of playing a literal computer game, consisting of hunting for a "valid entrance" in a 3-D animated dungeon (with hostile skeletons!), while the system itself proclaims full awareness of your activities and their illegality. It's a good enough sport to let you proceed without a fuss if you win.
  • In the 1985 movie Weird Science, Wyatt uses a computer program, "Crypto Smasher v3.10", that provides a very detailed (for that time) graphical representation of the hacking he is doing to break into a military computer system. The connections are all rendered as tunnels, with the mainframe itself appearing as a vast space with CGI versions of images from the opening sequence of The Twilight Zone (1959).
  • This is also seen in the movie Swordfish to a degree when Hugh Jackman's character creates a worm to hack into a bank and steal the money for John Travolta's organization. This film features large amounts of Rapid-Fire Typing and Viewer-Friendly Interface. Also, as he is first hired, the hacker is able to break into a government network in only 60 seconds through extreme Rapid-Fire Typing while receiving oral sex and with a gun pointed at his head. Hugh is the best at what he does. At another point in the movie, the dialogue indicates that the writers of the movie think that a computer with multiple monitors is inherently more powerful than one that has just one.
  • WarGames invented the whole tapping-a-few-keys-and-saying-"We're-in" shtick, and set the general form of how every movie hacker is portrayed. At the time, the techniques presented in WarGames were very realistic, from phone phreaking, wardialing, to social engineering. Some aspects of which are still in use successfully today, especially the social engineering aspect. (Just look at the trope image.) It's just that Hollywood never got past the 1980s in terms of graphical representation. And in the real world, Technology Marches On and most of it got much, much more boring and automated since then.
    • The most dramatic "hacking" scene, though, was very much straight out of Hollywood: WOPR attempts to crack the nuclear launch codes, and the characters in the password "lock in" one character at a time like some sort of bizarre slot machine. Real systems will never (intentionally) give you any information about an incorrect password other than the fact that it's wrong. Have you ever entered an incorrect password into a computer and been told which characters were incorrect?
  • Hackers, of course. The entire movie basically. And it is glorious. There are some realistic discussions about password security, which is how some of the earlier hacks get done (Admin password is God...), and pretty much all of the prep work for the big hack is actually realistic. Lots of stealing passwords, going through discarded printouts, tapping the phone lines. It's like they did all the research on how hacking actually happens and then decided that would be boring.
  • Live Free or Die Hard is the subject of the Penny Arcade strip quoted at the top of the page.
  • Played with in one of Eddie Izzard's stand-up routines.
    "Hundred bazillion possible passwords... "Jeff"! And I'm in."
    "How did you know?"
    "Well, he was born in Jeff, on the seventh day of Jeff, nineteen-Jeffty-Jeff... And they're always so swish about it, too: Hacking into the Pentagon computer... double-click on"yes"..."
  • Fortress (1992): the genius D-Day sits down at the keyboard of Zed-10, the mad Master Computer. He types the password (which is "Crime does not pay", the motto Zed-10 repeats every now and then) and then he types... "INSTALL D-DAY'S REVENGE VIRUS".
  • Independence Day, with extra bonus points for hacking into an alien computer, and figuring out its display well enough to send a visual Take That! to the invaders.
    • The novelization and deleted scenes imply that Apple computers (among other things) were derived from alien technology.
  • The Mangler 2 features a website known as "The Hackers Mall" which appears to date from the early 1990s and displays a visual homage to the Take That! of Independence Day, numerous examples of Everything Is Online (various "hacked" cables posing a physical threat to the protagonists) and a wired up Lance Henriksen/computer hybrid with what looks like a bucket attached to its foot. Also, Cyberpunk Is Techno.
  • The Core has one of the characters reroute power from the US to a single location and find secret weapons files seemingly from the Internet.
  • Star Wars' R2D2 can hack into any Imperial or Civilian computer system with ease, so long as he can tell the difference between a computer terminal and a power socket.
  • Jurassic Park has an infamous scene where the kid hero exclaims "It's a UNIX system. I know this." over a screen of what appears to be zooming polygon nonsense. This program actually existed: it's a legitimate UNIX OS derivative from SGI called IRIX that was running a 3D file system navigator, but it never caught on due to being very slow and overly flashy. Then again, "overly flashy" describes half the equipment in the park, so that at least makes some sense why Hammond would insist on using such a system.
    • This scene has become so iconic of all that's wrong about Hollywood depictions of technology, that Reddit has a whole "subreddit" (forum) dedicated to "every over-the-top, embarrassing, and downright flat-out incorrect usage of technology found in movies, TV shows, and video games"note  called, you guessed it, r/ItsAUnixSystem
  • In Skyfall, Q has a hacking display resembling a wire model, whilst hacking can be used to achieve practically anything, from leaving "breadcrumbs", to causing gas explosions. It isn't, by any means, the first James Bond movie to feature hacking, but it is perhaps the most straight example of this trope.
    • More intriguingly, Q claims that only roughly six people are competent enough in the world to design honeypot files which are designed to wipe system memory when the files are accessed, and then claims that he was the person who invented this. Having now established himself as a security expert, he then networks the Big Bad's laptop directly into the MI 6 main server...
  • 1995's The Net focuses on a mysterious secret program that is used to erase Sandra Bullock's identity from every computer in the world. The film culminates with the deletion of the program, which reverses the erasure: this is comparable to deleting your personal copy of OpenOffice and thus undoing every edit you've made to every OpenOffice file, even those you've moved to other computers.
  • In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Breaker manages to hack a dead man's brain.
  • In Scanners, the protagonist hacks into a computer system through a public phone booth using only his telepathic brain.
  • Johnny Mnemonic, unsurprisingly written by William Gibson (both the short story and the screenplay) has a scene where Johnny uses a VR headset and gloves for hacking, entering codes on a virtual keypad and in some places rearranging some blocks in a pyramid-shaped 3D puzzle, and another time hacking into his own brain with an avatar that dodged attacks from a security program and pulled an image out of his implant. Though the original short story just had Jones reading the imprint of the access code on his implant with a SQUID.
  • Sneakers accurately depicts a lot of the social engineering aspects and overall straight-up footwork required to get the basic information on what you need to get into and how you get into it, while the stuff you see actually on the computer screens is utterly Hollywood.
  • The original TRON is a bit of legitimate and much Hollywood intrusion. The ideas of physically accessing the internal network to log in with a backdoor, and injecting high CPU-use problems into the system to keep the MCP busy are reasonably legitimate, the fact that your security programs are represented as Anthropomorphic Personifications inside the Grid, well... not so much.
  • Parodied (like everything else) in Kung Fury with Hackerman, who specializes in this. "With the right computer algorithms, I can hack you back in time, just like a time machine." Hacking can also heal bullet wounds, revive the dead, and turn Hackerman into a robot with a laser gun.
    • In this video, Hackerman shows us how to hack time.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: It takes Merlin only a few seconds of frantic key-tapping to remote-activate all of Valentine's explosive loyalty-chip implants worldwide. A little odd, considering Valentine's other mass-murdering doom-machine uses its own private satellite network biologically keyed to Valentine's hand, which prompts Merlin to say that he can't hack something that complicated. Justified to a certain extent, as we're explicitly shown the biometric system's installation a long time after we're made aware that every member of the conspiracy is already implanted and those are (currently) on a separate, older system, and that it requires a gruesome constant connection to Valentine's hand. As well, while Merlin only taps a few keys, the computer shows lines upon lines of code streaming past, showing that Merlin isn't manually hacking the system, he merely triggered a program to do it.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in The Fate of the Furious New York sequence where Charlize Theron's character first hacks into every security camera on Manhattan...then remote controls several hundred cars, including an early 2000s Prius hilariously shown with a fancy, high-fidelity "autopilot engaged" message on its low-def navigation. She does all of this from her cushy flying bad guy lair, which apparently has so much computing power it can alter reality.
  • Ocean's 8: Averted. The method by which Nine Ball hacks into the Met's security network is plausible. She sends one of the security system managers an email that contains a link to a website that installs spyware on their computer.
  • Averted in Pokémon Detective Pikachu. Lucy Stevens gets information from a computer she's not allowed to use by spilling coffee on the authorized user and using it while they're washing up.
  • Whenever Vivian hacks a system in Asian School Girls, the audience never sees what is happening on the computer screen. there is just a shot of the back of the computer, the sound of Vivian's Rapid-Fire Typing, and then her announcing that she is in.
  • Exaggerated in Venom: Let There Be Carnage when Carnage can somehow hack into encrypted law enforcement databases in seconds, complete with Extreme Graphical Representation, just by inserting one of its tentacles into the USB drive on a convenience store employee's laptop.

  • The Demon Headmaster: The only thing preventing access to the Prime Minister's computer is a weak password, and to hack it, you just need to tell the computer "knock, knock" jokes. Apparently, it takes the combined power of the brightest minds in the country to figure this out.
  • The very grandfather of this trope is William Gibson, who wrote the whole graphical hacking trope into his novel Neuromancer. He later admitted to basing it off teenagers playing arcade games, and that he had never used a computer before he wrote Neuromancer. Oddly enough this gives it a timeless (if vague) quality that accurate specifics would never have. He later tried a computer, to find it "disappointing". Eventually, Gibson broke down and seems to be as addicted as the rest of us, having recently switched from keeping a blog to posting to Twitter.
  • In Tom Clancy's Net Force, people use VR to demolish code or bypass filters, such as killing viruses by turning them in nasty rats in a city, or passing firewalls by shooting them in a Wild West duel. It's a lot more fun than sitting at a command prompt and getting carpal tunnel, according to the personnel.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Soul Drinker, a mechanized tech adept connects via a mechanical implant to an ancient relic... and uses it to hack the sentient circuitry inside at the speed of thought, as the technology was so advanced that they couldn't keep up otherwise. According to the description, the relic is so amazed at having the first of four firewalls gene-encoders broken through (and therefore light up on the grip) that the second one falls soon after.
  • Frequently occurs in Animorphs, usually by Ax, as a result of his advanced alien knowledge. Human computers are extremely primitive to him.
  • The novella "True Names" did it three years before Neuromancer. It actually went further by making the case in-universe than in the age of VR, effective hacking is by definition Hollywood Hacking; governmental security is portrayed as less effective because of their agents' insistence on straightforward analogues of programming code and terminology to sensory representation, while the underground adopts and uses magical idioms and intuitive rather than logical interfaces.
  • Lampshaded in REAMDE by Neal Stephenson.
    "They have convinced themselves," Csongor said, "that if the three of us get inside the building, we can determine which unit contains the Troll."
    "Why do they believe that?"
    "Because we are hackers," Csongor said, "and they have seen movies."
  • In Josh Conviser's novel Echelon, almost all computer usage has become Hollywood Hacking complete with an immersive VR interface that almost plays like an MMO. The layers of abstraction make computer use easy for everyone, since now Everything Is Online, but some of the characters realize it could not possibly have grown naturally out of the Internet, and that it's a kind of "cultural terraforming" memetic weapon designed to be very easy to use and thus subvert an entire world's data management. It is, alas, never followed up on even in the sequel.
  • How do you hack in Idlewild IRV? Physically grab a program's avatar and wear it like Tricked-Out Gloves. Naturally it's impossible to access any program that isn't visible at the time and place.
  • Joked about in The Machineries of Empire, when Kel Cheris and a few drones watch a cheesy drama. The love interest character is supposed to be a hacker, but when they see the drama's idea of what hacking looks like, the drones start snickering and mocking the supposed computer genius.
  • Hacking in Otherland tends to be vaguely described, but at one point a character seems to be trying to get into her boss' files by a brute force attack - that is, by having a program try every conceivable combination of characters. That approach is so basic, and so childishly simple to guard against, that any self-respecting system should be immune to it, but it still gets her at least halfway in.
  • Old Man's War: Averted and lampshaded. A programmer trapped in a digital prison finds a way to make the prison glitch for a second, giving him access to the code. He describes how hacking in entertainment always looks good, with lots of flashing lights and whatnot, but what he actually did was just type a few things over the course of weeks. He assures readers that it was actually very impressive, but unless you're a programmer yourself you won't understand or care.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alex Rider: Kyra. Sent to a school for problem children of the super-rich after a prank involving an electronic billboard. Played a major part in the escape from the school and the later rescue by adding a secret door combination to the security system.
  • Apocalypse: Each time Derren sends fake news about the meteor shower to the hijacked iDevice, they roll a CGI scene of the signal being sent out to a satellite and bounced back to earth. Ultimately, this is just for Rule of Cool. No iDevice in the market has a satellite-capable phone radio; the signal will still come through cell towers just like other phones. Subverted, however, when they were hacking Steven's phone; it can be clearly seen that they are actually jailbreaking it and then installing a VNC server among other things.
  • Happens constantly on Arrow:
    • Resident hacker Felicity Smoak is able to hack virtually any form of technology. Often she does so from her handy 'magic tablet'. Many of her hacks look like a 3D computer animation on her screen which uses to control real technology.
    • Clock King ups the ante, causing all sorts of chaos theory the city such as having the traffic network to make a train level crossing boomgate go up when a train was passing through. He then goes Dueling Hackers with Felicity, hacking Felicity's computer speakers to taunt her and sending viruses to short her computer out. Felicity manages to beat him by sending his own virus into his own device.
    • Brother Eye, a cyber-terrorist group led by Cooper Seldom (who happens to be Felicity's ex-boyfriend) manages to flip all of Starling City's technology upside down. Shutting down the power grid, then all the bank funds. This was all made possible due to an unstoppable virus they use, which was made by, surprise surprise, Felicity.
    • Cayden James and Helix go furtherest of all. Cayden's first Evil Plan is finding the internet mainframe where he allegedly tries to destroy the internet. This turns out to be a ruse and what he actually wanted was for Felicity to lower the firewall. He avoided doing so himself because he didn't want to leave his digital fingerprints for the authorities to find. Later Cayden goes on a full-scale weapon of hack destruction, making all of Star City's technology go rampant, forcing Mayor Oliver to pay him a ransom.
  • Bones has Angela for their typical Hollywood Hacking needs, such as acquiring security footage and decrypting computer evidence. Recurring villain Christopher Pelant manages to accomplish some truly outrageous feats with computers. He can do almost anything. Some of the things he managed to do are: fool an ankle monitor, corrupt/modify security footage, take down cellphone networks and traffic lights, hijack a predator drone in Afghanistan, wipe his own identity and create a new one (twice!), upload viruses through library books, and infiltrate a private army. Oh, and in his first appearance, he manages to carve bones in such a way that when a 3D model of them is created it infects the computer with malware that changes its fan speeds and causes it to catastrophically overheat.
    • He's so good that Hodgins, who is admittedly a bit paranoid, worries that even if they use a system not connected to the internet Pelant will infect it with a worm by using the power grid.
  • Played with in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "Ticking Clocks". Initially, it seems to be played straight, with an IT nerd spouting nonsense about how the precinct is in danger of being hacked, conveniently providing an exact timer until the hack is complete and jamming as much technobabble into his explanations as he can. In the end, it turns out that the "IT guy" is really a suspect in an ongoing case, and he was attempting to use social engineering to trick Captain Holt into wiping the Nine-Nine's servers, deleting all the evidence against him in the investigation. His plan is foiled when Amy recognizes him.
  • Prior to becoming a witch, Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer often used her skill in computers to help out the team, including hacking into school records, secret government files, and even city power grids. Much later in the series, she could even amplify her hacking skills using her magic somehow, turning her into a more literal Techno Wizard.
  • In Constantine, one of John's former Newcastle mates, Ritchie Simpson, remotely hacks and shuts down Atlanta's power grid to weaken Furcifer in the series' pilot episode, "Non Est Asylum".
  • Crash Zone: The episode "The Shadow" features Hollywood-style hacker tracking—a program which, in a Viewer-Friendly Interface, slowly homes in on (and loudly announces) the hacker's home city, street address, and finally (somehow) their name. There is a race against time as the hackers try to log out of the system before the program finishes spelling out the computer owner's name.
  • Lampshaded in Criminal Minds:
    Garcia: It would take anyone else quite a while to do that. I make it look easy because I'm just that good.
  • CSI: NY: "I'll create a GUI interface using Visual Basic. See if I can track an IP address."
    • For those not tech-savvy, this is roughly the equivalent of drawing a map on a piece of paper to try and track down where you last left your car keys. It won't do anything.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "World War Three": Mickey launches a missile into 10 Downing Street by using a password (buffalo) provided by the Doctor to hack into first UNIT and then the Royal Navy. Obviously there's no way that a military organization would use a single common word as the one thing stopping civilians launching missiles. However, he is using a backdoor the Doctor installed that almost nobody else knows about.
    • "The Age of Steel": This is how the new Cybermen were first defeated, once Mickey finished typing the same five characters over and over the password to their internal systems had appeared on-screen one letter at a time.
    • Subverted in "Asylum of the Daleks". Oswin Oswald apparently uses a standard keyboard to rapidly type her way into the computers of a Dalek asylum. Daleks, being the mutant alien cyborgs they are, don't exactly use technology readily compatible with human keyboards, and the Doctor himself isn't terribly convinced when Oswin tells him that Dalek technology is "easy to hack." The whole keyboard hacking thing turns out to be one of many illusions Oswin has unknowingly put in her mind to keep herself from grasping the Awful Truth: she currently is a Dalek, and she was chosen to maintain the asylum planet's network due to her genius intellect from when she was still human.
    • Used straight a few episodes later in "The Bells of Saint John". The Doctor, Clara, and the villains all use copious amounts of Rapid-Fire Typing to hack and counter-hack each other.
  • In The Flash (2014) episode "All Star Team Up" resident super-genius Cisco estimates that he can hack into the city's municipal network in about half an hour. Felicity Smoak, guest-starring from Arrow sits down at a computer that happens to be sitting nearby, and proceeds to do exactly that by typing for a few seconds. She later pulls a Dueling Hackers thing with the Villain of the Week over remote control of a swarm of robotic bees.
    • Another episode has Barry get past a combination lock by entering every possible combination at Super Speed until he hits on the right one.
    • A bit of Artisic License here, as most (but not all) systems that require you to enter a code for access have an anti-hacking feature where if the wrong code is entered more than a set number of times, the system disables and won't let anyone in for either a certain length of time or until a lengthy identity verification and password reset sequence is accomplished.
  • One episode of iZombie has Liv hacking into a database and her narration states that she's using SQL injection. That is a method of getting into a database, but it's well-known and a programmer can protect their application from it by taking some very simple steps.
  • JAG: Meg's failed attempts to seize control of Grover's computer, in "Shadow", lead to various responses, ranging from an animation of Grover giving a raspberry, to other concealed bombs being armed.
  • Leverage:
    • Hardison is able to basically hack anything electronic. Oftentimes from a cell phone. It is also notable that the difficulty of a hack is inversely proportional to its importance to the plot. He is able to hack into London's camera system effortlessly but he often requires physical access for the target company's computer. While physical access is often necessary in reality, it would logically be necessary for police-controlled surveillance cameras as well.
    • At least a bit of this was explained early in the first season: Hardison spends considerable amounts of money and spare time getting back doors into any system he might someday feel the need to hack - he isn't often really breaking in on the fly, and his cell phone is usually giving commands to a much more powerful "home system". It's still unrealistic, but a surprising number of systems become much more hackable once somebody has the resources to do things such as produce shrink-wrapped software and substitute it for a company's order.
  • Limitless nicely subverts this. As Brian explains during a Training Montage where he's learning how to hack, the reason Hollywood tends to use montages for hacking is that real hacking is boring.
  • Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman:
    • Happened more than once, but the most infamous example was in "The Ides of Metropolis", which gave us two malicious hackers spewing jargon the writers clearly didn't understand at each other while Superman stopped their supervirus with a 3.5" floppy disk:
      "My LAN isn't talking to me. Should I reboot?"
      "It's collapsing into a subdirectory!"
    • In another episode, Clark uses brute-force on a keyboard, so fast the keys start smoking. Apparently no one heard the extremely loud clacking sounds.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "Ugly Duckling", Kate somehow hacks a building's systems and makes elevators go to the wrong floor, alarms go off, printers start printing out things people haven't sent to the printer, photocopiers shoot paper out all over the place, etc. Then she turns the lights off and escapes.
  • In possibly one of the most ridiculous evil plots known to man, you've got Bowser/King Koopa's hacking-related world domination plan in the Mario Ice Capades. The gist of it? From within a video game, he plans to use a virus in an NES console to hack a computer, and apparently take over the world (in an extreme version of Everything Is Online). This is then compounded by the program's host saying that an evil computer virus will 'release all the evil forces stored up in the computer'. Yes, it's actually a real TV show segment.
  • NCIS:
    • The episode "Driven" had a sabotaged car-driving AI, and they hacked into the SUV through sensor feed transmissions. Yes, there was a manual-adjustment feed, for slight adjustments of a specific system, but they used it to hack into root control within seconds. And then they have a fancy GUI menu on their own system to interface with it.
    • The episode "Kill Screen" had a semi-plausible cyberattack scheme where a hacker inserted a sophisticated subroutine into an online video game that he was lead programmer on. He could then use this to hijack the player's computers to use as a distributed network that would act as an encryption-breaking supercomputer. However, the computing power he gets from this is massively exaggerated and the setup is seemingly able to crack the Pentagon's network within half an hour (with convenient timer and graphical progress representation). Once discovered such an attack should be easy to stop but the NCIS team instead has to race against the clock to shut down the main server.
    • One episode even has two characters fighting a hacker by, no joke, typing simultaneously on the same keyboard. Somehow the keyboard is able to take more than one input at the same time, and those characters are somehow filing two separate commands rather than creating mixed lines of gibberish (unless they're somehow psychic and know exactly what their partner is about to type). Another character foils the hacker... by unplugging the computer, and looking at his two panicking subordinates like they were being idiots (which they were). If he just unplugged the monitor, the action would be worse than useless because the hacking would still be occurring; they'd just be unable to see it. If he unplugged the entire computer stack, the attempt would still be useless because this wouldn't cut power to the server, which is presumably elsewhere in the building. This scene is mocked mercilessly in the Cracked article "8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn't Get Technology".
    • An episode had the team recover a micro SD card and, fearing it had a virus on it but still needing to see its contents, decide to open it using a laptop that's been "isolated" - by being put in a glass box. Then the virus still spreads through the power cable.
  • This was handwaved (lampshaded?) in Nikita with the explanation of, "I even made it look like a video game so your little tween brains can handle it."
  • The Sherlock episode, "The Reichenbach Fall": Moriarty wows everyone with a tiny application he claims has the power to hack basically anything on the planet. He demonstrates this app by simultaneously hacking the Tower of London, the Bank of England, and a major prison. At the end, it's revealed he found people beforehand who had master privs to the locks at those locations and paid them gobs of money to help with his demonstration; all the app did was call them and tell them it was time.
    "This is too easy, this is too easy. There is no "key", DOOFUS! Those digits are meaningless. They're utterly meaningless. You don't really think a couple of lines of computer code are going to crash the world around our eyes? I'm disappointed, I'm disappointed in you, Ordinary Sherlock!"
    • Later, Mary manages to hack the MI6 mainframe...from a smartphone. In about half a minute. It's not nearly as egregious as other examples of this trope, but it's definitely on the edge.
      Mycroft: What do you think of MI6 security?
      Mary: I think it would be a good idea.
  • Chloe Sullivan from Smallville is absolutely the queen of this trope. In the first season, she's merely an above-average hacker as a high school freshman. The next year she moves up the ability level scale by managing to hack the records of the charity that managed Clark's adoption. By Seasons 3 and 4, however, she's a complete master at hacking and can hack emergency services, electric grids, medical records, and as of the later seasons, even government agencies. In one episode of Season 8, she is given a piece of alien technology...and successfully hacks into it within a relatively short span of time.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager the ship is transported back to the 90s, and the villain manages to hack Voyager, the 24th-century Organic Technology spaceship and the Doctor, a sentient, evolving AI hologram so advanced that even in Voyager's present they still don't fully understand him, by typing really fast on his computer. And for a follow-up, someone will hack an iPhone by vigorously waving around semaphore flags. He's using technology from the 29th Century to assist him, retrieved from a crashed timeship, but that's a strike against him; 29th century technology should have scrambled his brain.
  • In Supernatural, Sam and Kevin can hack into almost any system when the plot demands it. In the episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Kevin hacks the military server obtaining private photos and personal information on a Sergeant with a couple of keystrokes.
  • In TekWar, hackers are frequently employed by the protagonist. The standard method of hacking involves an extremely detailed graphical user interface with things like waves of electrical energy to represent firewalls (and these firewalls can hurt you in real life). The hackers navigate these worlds as a real 3D landscape, including avoiding being caught by other hackers and programmers by ducking to avoid something hitting them.
  • White Rabbit Project: The Carbanak Gang legend in the Heists episode made gratuitous use of the old scrolling garbage text on the monitor effect, although one part that shows the effect on an ATM looked suspiciously like the Linux SysV init bootscript.
  • Wonder Woman: In "IRAC is Missing", Bernard Havitol steals IRAC by connecting a briefcase to the machine. Once complete, IRAC is in the briefcase and no longer in the massive tape machines, terminal, et al and there was no way to retrieve IRAC from backups or piece it back together. That Havitol had IRAC completely and utterly was the main plot of the episode.

  • Done in Sega Pinball's GoldenEye with the "Send Spike" Encounter, where you shoot ramps to send "spikes" and make connections to cities around the world.

  • In the Cool Kids Table game All I Want for Christmas, Chrissy is able to hack a jet ski with a nail file because it's the nineties, and anything can be hacked.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shadowrun has been fairly open about using this trope from the beginning, in order for the team hacker not having to be an NPC or GMPC:
    • Behind the pretty G.U.I., hacking works more or less like plausible hacking with radically advanced computer technology and nigh-unlimited computer resources. The "normal" hackers are using semi-magical abilities which let them bypass all that and hack things instinctively, with some significant downsides. They'd be the real Hollywood Hackers, since if they claim to be "Spoofing the Firewall to Brute-Force the TCP/IP Kernel," it would actually work!
    • Also, Shadowrun (depending on version you're using) actually based things on real life — you actually are using hacking tools. Often times you're just using a program to repeatedly issue various commands to basically break the program you're interacting with. The security programs in Shadowrun are coded to recognize when they're under attack and retort with basically the same thing. The difference being that buffer overflows in living creatures tend to have more serious consequences.
  • Steve Jackson Games will probably never stop referring to GURPS Cyberpunk as "the book seized by the US Secret Service". The book does have rules for "realistic" (if almost 20 years out of date) hacking, but most of that chapter is devoted to Neuromancer-style cyberspace hacking. The core 4e books contain a skill called "Computer Hacking", precisely for Hollywood Hacking. However, the rules note that the skill should only exist in the more "cinematic" games — in a realistic game, the would-be hacker will have to instead learn a bunch of various skills like computer programming, psychology, etc.
  • Present via Gameplay and Story Segregation in Sentinels of the Multiverse. Evil AI Omnitron has a card called "Technological Singularity", which depicts him taking control of the Powered Armour worn by Absolute Zero and Bunker, and has the game effect of destroying all equipment. Other equipment in the game includes throwing knives (the Wraith), traditional Maori war clubs (Haka), and magical musical instruments (Argent Adept), all of which are affected just as readily by Technological Singularity. There’s also Tachyon who is able to figure out the password to Baron Blade’s computer by virtue of being fast enough to try every possible password.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock: Do you want to hack into a robot, a computer or even a vending machine? Play "Pipe Dream"! This is actually an artifact of an old plot idea where all of Rapture's tech was Bio-mechanical and run by tiny men inside the machine. The pipes were increasing the ADAM flow to the man inside which would make him grateful to you.
    • The sequel replaces this with a "hack tool" that presumably works like an electronic lock pick that requires split-second input a few times.
    • The third game gets rid of the hacking altogether by employing a Vigor called Possession, which turns machines and enemies into allies for the most part by shooting a "ghost" into them. The vending machines might reduce their prices for items, but every time they're "possessed" they spew a pile of coins. It doesn't work in every machine or enemy, however.
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game, Spider-Man tries to hack Kingpin's computer. Kingpin openly denounces this "Hollywood film" trope with a This Is Reality speech, only to panic when he sees that the trope is actually working.
  • Dreamfall: The Longest Journey: Hacking is represented by a rather ludicrously simple matching-up-symbols game. This Hacking Minigame is actually given an in-universe explanation: Olivia explains to Zoë that she is using software to hack, and the software is designed so that it looks like a symbol-matching up game. This way, if someone walks by and sees Zoë's phone screen, it'll instead look like she's playing a game.
  • Mass Effect is even worse: Just see This Penny Arcade Strip. The PC version, for the record, has a slightly better version which at least mimics the interface of the player's "omni-tool". It still falls under this trope.
    • Mass Effect 2 has two different Hacking Minigames. The one where you connect pins on a circuit board to open doors is relatively plausible, whereas the one where you look for matching pieces of (unreadable) text in a scrolling grid to hack people's bank accounts is just as absurd as the first game's flashing lights.
    • Mass Effect 3 does away with the hacking, you put your omnitool against the door and a few seconds later a VI works out the access codes for you.
  • The Internet and network levels in Shadow the Hedgehog. Firewalls are represented as actual fiery walls.
  • In System Shock 1, hacking is performed by flying around a neon Cyber Space shooting down countermeasures. Somewhat justified by the fact that it's an extreme graphical representation brought on by the use of the Hacker's military-grade neural interface: the beginning and ending of the game show more reasonable hacking methods.
  • Sly Cooper does this whenever Bentley is hacking a system. This is probably one of the more reasonable stunts in the game. Of course, the games are pretty Troperrific already...
  • TRON 2.0 features a level where the protagonist must reconfigure a firewall. From the inside. Of the computernote .
  • The game Uplink from Introversion is intentionally designed to play like Hollywood Hacking. You have programs that can figure out a password for you and disable firewalls and so on automatically, though later on you can wipe mainframes and other computers by going to the Unix-like command prompt after hacking in and have to use realistic commands to delete everything (and not just by typing in "delete everything"). Several freeware clones, like Dark Signs, have been cropping up slowly yet steadily. Quality and spot on the Hollywood to Realist scale varies somewhat among them, but a greater emphasis seems to be put on command-line interfaces.
  • Mega Man Battle Network:
    • Despite the fact that passwords do indeed exist, and essentially work as locked doors with plot device keys, most "hacking" is done by sending a program with a gun somewhere, sometimes via the internet, to shoot something. Particularly ridiculous in the first level of the second game, where an automatic gate lock is hacked by going on the internet and pushing a button guarded by a conveniently sleeping security program.
    • Also, in the third level of the first game, a malfunctioning metroline is repaired by a kid sending his program onto the internet and having it shoot some stuff another program put there. Essentially, you clear up a Denial of Service attack by destroying malware that was blocking the flow of data.
    • In the third game's Bonus Dungeon, the only way to progress is to "hack the security system". If you accept, you are faced with three completely immobile towers with huge HP that have to be destroyed at the same time in one hit. Fail and it's an instant One-Hit Kill.
    • In the second game, FreezeMan.EXE launches a nationwide Denial of Service Attack by burying the network in Ice programs that freeze programs and deny access to various places. You have to resolve this by finding an experienced hacker and giving him several samples of the Ice program codes so he can develop a countermeasure. Freeze Man himself is the Command and Control program orchestrating the attack and threatens to bring all of the network down with him when you defeat him in battle, but it proves to be an empty threat as without his command presence, the Ice Programs stop working.
    • Amusingly accurately represented in Network Transmission. On a certain level, ShadowMan.EXE successfully deletes a critical security certificate just before MegaMan.EXE shows up to retrieve it. However, Lan's father was later able to reconstruct the security certificate from the data fragments ShadowMan.EXE left behind, implying that either MegaMan.EXE was fast enough to rescue some cached data or ShadowMan.EXE had no time to do a full secure deletion of the security cert.
    • Averted whenever Mr. Match is the culprit, as he uses social engineering to get close to his targets (posing as a repairman in the first game and becoming a Scilab employee in the third) and uses purpose-built malware packages to target specific hardware.
  • Spybot: The Nightfall Incident depicts hacking as a turn-based strategy game, with different programs representing both your own units and enemy units. No longer hosted on the Lego site, but can be found here among other places.
  • The old Commodore 64 classic Paradroid had you hack via a minigame.
  • Another C64 classic, Hacker was explicitly based on Hollywood Hacking. The follow-up, the creatively named Hacker 2, went even further.
  • In Fallout 3, hacking computers is done by opening up a key-log of recent entries and picking out complete words. The game then responds with the number of correct letters in that word- you get five guesses, hopefully getting closer each time, then the computer locks you out and usually sets off an alarm. In other words, it's a game of Mastermind. This style of hacking returns in Fallout 4, but with one change: failing to hack into the computer will only temporarily lock the computer down, so you can try again after a few moments.
  • Ratchet & Clank have come up with an entertaining variety of combinations for hacking into things - usually involving a mini-game, a handheld gadget, and little glowy dots.
  • The mostly-forgettable Bethesda game Delta-V features "hacking" as a glorified recreation of the Death Star run (and a bloody hard one at that).
  • In the Brotherhood of Nod ending of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, Nod hacks into GDI's Kill Sat via a virtual reality interface. Within the virtual world, a successful hacking requires dodging laser fire from a forest of turrets, then moving through a small hole that constantly changes shape. Two of the hackers are electrocuted by GDI's defenses.
  • Sam & Max, to get past a firewall in Reality 2.0, change the color of their DeSoto. Seriously. After they're past it, they engage in some mild hacking as a means of laundering money into Bosco's bank account to pay for that episode's uber-expensive item.
  • In MySims Agents, you can hack certain devices to get information. How? Simple, you use the remote to guide an icon through a scrolling maze under a time limit. Deviate from the light path, and your time runs out faster. Also, if you run into an icon at an intersection, it changes the route the path takes, which may be a longer way.
  • Cracking a nanofield in Iji is accomplished by maneuvering a little square on a grid of flashing squares to reach the opposite corner. Maybe the nanobots are just giving Iji an Extreme Graphical Representation or something.
  • Portal 2:
    • Hilariously sent up in this scene. Wheatley tries to hack a password by trying each password in alphabetical order. Slowly. And he still manages to screw the order up.
      • Later on in the game, he tries this tactic again, and again screws up the order. Surprisingly enough, by missing a letter, he actually gets the password right!
    • About halfway through the game, he tries to hack into the neurotoxin control centre. Which mostly involves putting on an accent and pretending to be a neurotoxin inspector. Performing a "manual override" on a wall or "hacking" a door meanwhile is much more violent than the name suggests.
  • Hydrophobia has you gain into computer systems by matching wave-lengths with the console. Particularly funny as the game's protagonists are completely confused just how anybody could hack into their system!
  • Hacker Evolution looks like it takes a more realistic route since all hacking is done through command prompt... except passwords are broken by typing "crack [server] [port]", there is no need to hide oneself after breaking in, files can be uploaded and downloaded freely and player can hide from authorities by paying 500$ for new IP...
  • Saints Row: The Third: In one level the Saints hack into a rival gang's usernet. This involves you running around a Tron-like environment shooting their avatars, while the Big Bad tries to stop you by reversing your controls, giving you lag and making you play a command prompt game which unfairly victimizes unicorns.
  • LBX: Little Battlers eXperience has Infinity Net where battles between digital representation of LBX (essentially functioning gunplay) take place and data can be "picked up" with said LBX. Rapid-Fire Typing also applies.
  • The Ubisoft game Watch_Dogs, and its successors, is basically this trope as a game. Hacking a train, some traffic lights, a door, anything and everything connected online by pressing only a single button? Hellz yeah.note  Admittedly though, a number of the tricks are only possible because the protagonists use exploits and backdoors that were built into the system.
  • The little-known Neuromancer video game portrays hacking as tossing programs at a polyhedron until its HP is reduced to zero before its own ICE flatlines you.
  • The Sega Genesis Shadowrun game works pretty much exactly like the description of the Neuromancer example above, though there are some various debuff effects and a few situational programs that can instantly bypass certain security forms.
  • In NieR: Automata, hacking is often portrayed as controlling a tiny Asteroids-style spaceship and shooting at defense systems in a manner akin to old-school twin-stick shooters (ala Robotron 2040) until the core is exposed, then destroying the core. Most of the time, this results in the hacked machine lifeform self-destructing, although the player can occasionally either reprogram them to fight on their side or take remote control of the machine. Conversely, failing a hack — either by having your ship destroyed or running out of time — causes feedback that will cause damage to your character. The process is depicted as nigh-instantaneous, as the fighting in the game is paused during the hacking process. At the end of the game, if the player chooses to fight A2 as 9S, the final hack performed on A2 will depict the player hacking into A2's pause menu, essentially attacking her operating system directly. Succeeding in this hack will instantly defeat her.
  • The only way to obtain computer passwords in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines seems to be to brute-force them (essentially, to try out all possible combinations until a match is found), never mind that no humanoid being can type that fast, no consumer-grade keyboard can survive it, and any DoS-aware security system would go into a complete lockdown after the 1000th failed password attempt within a second. Even more fascinatingly, if your computer skill is sufficient, you always find the password in linear time, regardless of its length, complexity theory be damned. Must be one of the perks of being an undead bloodsucker...
  • Hacknet, if the name didn't give it away. While the developer has done his research and the methods used to open individual vulnerabilities in certain protocols are actually based on sound theory, there's still a Password Slot Machine variation to get past firewalls, and PortHack to finally exploit all the openings you've created. The game's central premise is actually playing with this trope to hell and back. Specifically, it's averted. The game is a borderline-ARG set in the present day, and the tools you use aren't just there for effect, they're really that powerful. The last act of the game is ultimately a mission to destroy the Hacknet software before it leaks and everyone can break into everything so easily.
  • Dr. Alphys does this in Undertale when you traverse the Core, calling you periodically when you reach obstacles (or encounter Mettaton) so she can hack into it and make it possible for you to pass (or survive). It's all a set-up. The Core's traps and puzzles had long been deactivated; she turned them on again so she'd have an excuse to participate in the Player Character's journey. Mettaton, who's fed up with pretending to be a human-killing machine, decides to mess around with the systems himself and let the wind out of her heroic sails.
  • Titanfall: Pilots can hack stationary turrets and Spectres to automatically attack the enemy. This is accomplished by stabbing them with a "data knife."
  • During Welcome to the Game, you will often be the target of a hacker, whereupon you do a short minigame to block them from doing so, the explanation for which is basically ridiculous.
    • In the sequel, you are the hacker, but your methods are ridiculous from the get-go (though grounded in reality, at least). WEP-encrypted wifi networks can apparently be cracked by identifying a vulnerable port and then running a password cracker program to find the password. WPA and WPA 2-encrypted wifi networks require injecting a vulnerability into the router, which can be stopped if the router detects that the vulnerability is being injected (by trying to do too much too quickly), which then makes a port vulnerable to the password cracker. About the only actually real aspect is that unprotected wifi networks (that is, unencrypted networks with no passwords) are a security hellhole: hacks are more likely, speed is terrible, and if the police are looking for you, they'll be able to trace your IP much faster than on a protected network.
  • Hacker's Beat is a rhythm game based on this. All of the notes represent some general area of your keyboard, aside from firewalls where you need to hit enter, and the songs end with you getting access to... something.
  • Sombra from Overwatch revels in this trope. She's The Cracker for resident terrorist organization Talon, and her preferred method of hacking into computer systems, emails, company websites, operation lifts, and even inactive mecha is by using her glove device and a Holographic Terminal. In-game, her hacking ability is essentially a form of a "silence" effect, preventing enemies from using their main active abilities, ultimates included (which range from activating rocket boosters, traveling back in time, throwing a bear trap, using a grappling hook, and sprinting.)
  • The hacker from Streets of Rogue does this as his standard shtick; with a bit of typing on his keyboard, he can (remotely) make turrets target their owners, unlock safes, changes prices, and even flood buildings with poison gas. Other classes can get in on this to an extent, but without a hacking tool they have to access a building's server in person, and they have fewer options when they do.
  • In Stage 13 of Super Robot Wars W, some members of the team, including Kazuma, try to earn some extra cash by helping Aqua Crimson debug a video game that her company is developing. They do this by piloting simulated versions of their robots against simulated versions of Aestivalis and the Nadesico, which are apparently the representation of bugs according to Aqua. It later turned out that she was lying: the Aestivalis represent the Nadesico's defense programs, and the Nadesico is the representation of Omoikane, the Nadesico's AI. The entire job was a scheme to destroy the Nadesico's computer system.
  • Persona 5 has Futaba Sakura, a fifteen-year-old self-taught programming prodigy. Her computer screens are constantly filled with reams of code and she can crack into virtually any database in existence in an afternoon by tapping away at her keyboard. She was a one-girl hacktivist group under the name Medjed in the past and goes so far as to hack every single television broadcast in Japan to send the Phantom Thieves' final calling card. But even she admits that there is information she can't grab because some information simply isn't stored on the internet.
  • Deep Rock Galactic:
    • Hacking disabled Patrol Bots is as simple as taking out your special hacking pad that the company gave you and solving a reaction puzzle.
      Miner: All this time playing video games has finally paid off!
    • Exaggerated and parodied with the Hacking Pods deployed during the Rival Incursion event. Rather than anything ultra-sophisticated, they're basically regular computers with too many monitors and a keyboard, with a hacking robot grafted into it (complete with white hat and RGB fans) that needs to physically use the keyboard, and does it so obnoxiously loudly it attracts every bug in the caverns.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, Dennis blackmails the protagonist into hacking into Dr. Mosely’s computer for him, using nothing but spyware on a thumb drive. Dennis includes detailed instructions for every step needed to complete the job in his program, but without knowing the model and operating system used on the computer, this would be impossible.

    Web Animation 
  • Referenced in Red vs. Blue season 6. Simmons is trying to get into a high-security system; Grif offers such helpful advice as "try hacking the mainframe" (or cracking it) or "try uploading a virus to the mainframe" featuring a laughing skull. Protip: it's not a mainframe, and a virus is definitely not going to help you spoof a randomly-generated 2056-bit encryption key.

  • Megatokyo: Hackers use Magical Girl representations of themselves to hack into a nebulously defined security network. This may or may not be a reference to the Negima example above or something it was parodying. It's also unclear if this was actually happening, or just representational.
  • Kevin & Kell dips into hacking every so often, although it tends to be more blatant metaphors for what they're really doing.
  • This xkcd webcomic takes the cake... someone flaps a butterfly's wings just once to control the air currents, causing temporary pockets of high air pressure to form. They're then used as a lens to deviate cosmic rays so he can flip the desired bit on his hard drivenote .
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal shows the need for some artistic license here.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Page 21 of "All the King's Dirtbikes and All the King's Men" shows Dark Smoke Puncher supposedly hacking the giant robot that used to be Cumberland. The screens show the robot shooting something, a couple of windows, and a close-up of its face. The Alt Text proceeds to lampshade it by saying "IN ORDER TO HACK THE ROBOT ONE MONITOR MUST BE DEVOTED TO LOOKING AT ITS FACE".
    Dark Smoke Puncher: That's... uh... some robo—
    Dan McNinja: Hack it.
    Dark Smoke Puncher: I don't know if I—
    Dan McNinja: Hack that robot.
    Alt Text: USE... THE "NET".
  • Sinfest features Sisterhood-member Clio and her highly-successful string of attacks on DevilTech's fembot-production facilities. The fact that her target has a policy of installing unguarded data-ports on the exterior of its buildings makes things somewhat easier for her.
  • Parodied in Casey and Andy, when Casey downloads the "operating system shown in movies" that lets the user hack into any device or program via a ridiculously easy password.
    Andy: Any downsides?
    Casey: Yeah, it can't show any font under 72 point.
  • Sandra and Woo: explicitly averted in this strip.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Once on The Penguins of Madagascar, the penguins hacked into a computer by literally hacking the CPU with a chainsaw.
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode "Aduckyphobia", Professor Moliarty hacks an electronic safe lock by first measuring it with a caliper, then entering a few numbers on a pocket calculator, then finally, striking it firmly with a wooden mallet so that it disintegrates.
  • All over the map in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Computer interfaces are primarily AI units with their own personalities and quirks; overpower or trick the AI, and you get full access. The team's Playful Hacker is as much a Con Man as he is a programmer.
  • Raf from Transformers: Prime hacks into the federal network of the USA to find out where one of their microchipped agents is. He's 12 (and a quarter!). He does this later on to find out a train's exact coordinates. This also bites him in the ass, when one of MECH's mooks realizes what Raf's doing and with a flick of a switch makes a "bomb" go off in Raf's laptop, even making the hardware sizzle. Hollywood Counter-Hacking everybody.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, Kimiko frequently engages in this.
    Kimiko: I cross-referenced the username with a double-helix tracer decoding worm! (Somehow this produces an image of Wuya.)
  • In Jonny Quest vs. the Cyber Insects, Dr. Zin's Mooks instantly upload a vague kind of virus into the Quest family's Robot Buddy just by pressing some random button, which instantaneously totally rewrites his programming and brings him under Zin's remote control. Jonny also hacks Zin's own computer with the same virus later on.
  • In Kim Possible, Wade can do this, mostly in regards to hacking speed. Most of it is explained away as him being a super-genius capable of inventing things like a holodeck and a love-ray. A typical moment for him is describing how tight security is before casually announcing that yeah, he's past it by now.
  • In the seventh season of The Venture Bros. Billy and Pete attempt to hack the Venture building's computer to find its flaws, quickly lampshading how hacking isn't as cool as it appears in films.
  • Young Justice's incarnation of Robin plays up his hacking abilities since he's more of a smart guy here, especially in the first season. He uses a wrist-mounted holographic computer which allows him to hack into any secret computer database, usually with the help of a USB cable or typing a few commands. At one point, he's even able to bypass some locked doors with a little smiley face of Robin on his computer screen appearing over each one.
  • Besides sci-fi action movie trivia, this is Naoki's specialty in World of Winx. He can hack into just about anything with his phone, from remote-control boats to the floating cameras that follow the Winx around.

  • In Science Girls!, Jennifer tries to get Missy to hack into the alien's wormhole device. Missy makes it very clear she can't hack into something that may not even be a computer, much less one she has no clue what the security is or even how it works. She even lampshades it by quipping "Hacking isn't magic, you know."
  • Clear and Present Danger has a reasonably realistic social/exhaustive attack, trying various permutations of birthdates (although they type each manually). It isn't even quite swordfish: they get down to having to mash together digits from different family members. (In a final blow to the Hollywood Computing, they even use "dir /w" to list the disk contents, even if the display is a little viewer-friendlier than normal.)
  • Mr. Robot explicitly sets out to avert this trope. In the words of the veteran cyber-crime expert, they hired as a consultant for the show: "We want that code to be accurate so that even the most sophisticated hacker or technical person out there will not roll their eyes at a scene". They went to considerable extent to ensure this, too: in a scene where a hacker plants a snooping tool inside a cell phone they actually used an honest-to-goodness real-life spyware. They hid its name, but it's trivial for anyone with decent Google skills to find it out.
    • This trope is even discussed in a certain episode of the first season, which Romero (one of the hackers) complains about a film portraying hacking in an unrealistic way.
    • All the hacks depicted are painstakingly researched, and in many cases, actually performed by the consultants for the show. Whenever actual code, or other hacking tools, are shown being used on-screen, they will have actually been written and used, then recorded and played back for the camera. The most common Artistic License taken in the show is the time that the various hacks would take - actions that would take hours or even days to complete will be compressed down into far shorter timespans.
      • One "sped-up" example is Elliot hacking his neighbor's wifi. While the software used is accruate, the process happens in minutes opposed to the hours that it would take at best.
  • The Social Network:
    • The hacking is explicitly shown to be a process of reading code and trying out strategies based on the security settings of the target, although it takes much less time than in real life.
    • Also, the objectives of the "hacking" scene are modest (download everybody's photo in every house, without having to manually navigate to every page and right-click on each image), and the descriptions of how to do it for each house's webpage, although brief, are 100% realistic. The easier pages have unprotected directory listings in Apache, so you can get all the images with a single run of the wget command. The harder ones require posting search terms to a page and scraping the output to find the photos; this requires custom scripting, therefore "bring out the Emacs" (a plain-text editor used by many programmers).
    • The hacking, and indeed all of Zuckerberg's monologue in that scene is a verbatim transcript fished from the real-life court documents. So not only is that the actual method that he used to hack it happened roughly that time, time frame as the timestamps on his posts attest to.
  • Iron Man 2:
    • Appears in a minor form near the beginning. While he did this all from an impossibly thin smartphone, when Tony hacked the display screens being used at the Senate hearing, if you look closely at the device as he handily holds it up for an instant, you can see that it is connected to several Microsoft SQL servers (did Oracle sponsor this movie?), and is running the "Stark Industries Terminal Hijack System". You can even see the images of the movies he shows later on in the scene in the corner, queued up. When you see the displays a split second later, it showed what appears to be an exploit involving using a built-in user, a common entry-point for hackers, to reboot the system to Stark's own operating system (complete with "Welcome Mr. Stark" printed in asterisks across the screen). While they did take a bit of artistic license, showing things you would never see and listing directories for cool scrolling text effect, at the very least the hack was depicted realistically. And since the mobile device was apparently a piece of Stark Industries equipment (which has been shown to be ridiculously advanced already, especially in the form of the Iron Man armor) this also makes sense.
      • Entering a system in this manner doesn't take any particular processing power on behalf of the intruder. It's using far more on just loading up the videos! Imagine if you will a giant, well-barred gate — which is useless because Stark discreetly had a copy of the key made. It hardly takes any effort if you know where to hit.
    • It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it subtle touch, but Ivan breaks into the Hammer Industries computer terminal by using a default or commonly-used administrator username and password combination, a very simple thing that highlights one of Hammer's weaknesses. He says that their "software is shit," but what he might have meant was that their security was lacking.
    • Later in the movie when Ivan takes control of the Hammer Drones and War Machine, what sort of techno-lingo-made-up hacking tool did they use to free Rhodes from the suit's control? Reboot it.
  • In Antitrust, the Big Bad's most dangerous weapon is his access to medical databases, and the protagonist is able to easily hack into the computer system because no one bothered with securing a terminal in a children's play area.
  • The protagonist of the Evil Genius Trilogy, Cadel Piggott, is a Sociopathic Hero Teen Genius, but his hacking always takes a good deal of thought and planning, at least a couple of days to weeks to break into the system, and there's tons of mentions of Trojan Horse programs, backpacking on other programs, and a couple of backdoors.
  • In John Sandford's Thomas Kidd novels. Kidd uses his programming skills to take down his targets, but to get access to the systems, he uses social engineering and the help of a burglar friend.
  • Handled realistically in Daniel Suarez's Daemon and its sequel, which shouldn't be surprising since Suarez is One of Us and worked in computer security before becoming a novelist.
  • Japanese live-action Bloody Monday featured a teen hacker using real UNIX applications, GNOME Desktop components, and lot of Python, while the fancy 3D graphs were limited to the government agents' computers.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors averts this and It's Up to You at the same time in one scene. Lotus creates a program to brute-force a password, while Junpei watches - or, if the right choices are made up to that point, he could go looking for a hint - but Lotus still manages to finish her program and find the password first.
  • Broken Saints averts this by way of having a real hacker on-board as tech advisor.
  • Averted by Nagato Yuki's hacking skills in Haruhi Suzumiya where she's hacking the back door the computer society uses to cheat the Day of Sagittarius with real code; lots of it. Although we don't see the original lines of code she used to hack their backdoor we do get glimpses of the code she uses to rewrite the game.
  • In Sherlock. Moriarty claims to have a master code that can hack any system and demonstrates it by simultaneously breaking in to the Tower of London, the Bank of England, and a high-security prison. There's no such master code; Moriarty made it up. He accomplished all three break-ins with inside help.
  • Averted in The Matrix Reloaded, when Trinity uses a genuine hacking program called "nmap" to identify a viable target from a command line (with plenty of Rapid-Fire Typing, but in short bursts), and then uses a (fictional) "SSHnuke" program to attack a secure connection. This is actually pretty well done, and while the program she uses to make the actual attack does not exist, it's a similar idea to a "real" attack on a remote computer, and highly skilled hackers often have a personal library of programs/exploits they've written themselves. Not only that but in the timeframe of the simulated reality (the turn of the century earth) SSHv1 really had an exploitable remote vulnerability. Of course, the less said about the rest of the Matrix's relation to real computers, the better, but at least their hacking of simulated computers inside a giant simulation is a realistic simulation.
  • Transformers, believe it or not. The Decepticons hacking essentially boiled down to them going up to the big computer hard-lines, plugging themselves in, and copying the information. There was some techno talk about them having a special frequency to identify them, but the actual hacking was averting many clichés. The human hacker, meanwhile, had to have a copy of the intrusion (basically the web history stating what file names were copied, without anything else shown) onto a memory stick and taken to him manually, and unlock some encrypted/embedded information. Still fairly Hollywoodish, but the way it worked is entirely possible. Considering the many other liberties taken (the spider bug virus being notable and all systems being shut down by said virus) they're handwaved by the fact its aliens interacting with technology based on a reverse-engineered Megatron.
  • In Schlock Mercenary hacking is usually done by A.I.s with high amounts of processing power or via physical access. When they give specifics it's usually brute force using quantum computers or "rubber hose" cryptography.
  • How does Florence of Freefall sneak an unauthorized "update" to the Gardener in the Dark program into the servers? Physical access.
  • The Casual Vacancy has scandalous posts written anonymously on a town message board by means of SQL injection- which is an entirely plausible method in real life (especially since the culprit behind an SQL injection can be nigh impossible to trace if done correctly).
  • In Worm, Tattletale uses her ability to simply guess passwords.
  • Elysium shows console text and computer code, the need for physical access, and the ease with which Elysium is rebooted and its citizen registry altered is due to the use of code stolen from an insider who wrote it explicitly to mount a coup. Of course this still leaves the gaping plot hole of why downloading the code from his head into the core would kill him when they're clearly downloading and displaying it from his head onto the monitors in the smugglers' base.
  • Grrl Power not only has their tech geek mock Hollywood Hacking ("are you asking if I routed it through the traffic light system and bounced it off a dozen satellites?"), but his main jobs thus far have been getting the social media sites in a tizzy over a specific event and breaking into a bank's security system (that he notes was poorly designed) so he could upload their video footage onto YouTube.
  • The Last Angel: Red One and Echo are both able to punch through software-based defenses like they weren't there on account of being military seed AI's, but simple hardware countermeasures like system isolation and keeping ships far enough away to impose light-lag issues stop both cold. Assuming, of course, that they haven't rigged the game by putting a time-delayed virus into your system ahead of time or acquired backdoors, which is NOT a safe assumption.
  • Parodied in the Adventure Time comic. Whenever Finn and Jake try hacking, they just shout random technobabble while flailing away at the keyboard; they admit to having learned this from movies. Marceline, on the other hand, seems to know actual hacking techniques.
  • Floating Point takes place Inside a Computer System, but generally subverts this trope with extensive explanations for why two digital lifeforms need to stab each other with knives. (The knives are actually malware Apps that require a physics exploit to lock onto their targets and identify security weaknesses.)
  • Dopamine was basically written for the express purpose of subverting this trope. There are over a dozen instances of some form of hacking or another, and they're depicted with exact concordance with reality.
    • When Danny's team cracks Tungsten's WEP key in Act I, the text describes the exact tool used — "Cain and Abel" — and the exact method Danny employs to use it.
    • In Act III, when Danny breaks into Rock Box Security Co, we're given the exact console command required to open a reverse shell on Mac OS X.
    • The author has literally Shown Their Work on this one. The book's official website has an entire section detailing the exact technical details of every hacking technique used in the book, along with an intro about the STRIDE computer security model. The website's documentation can be used as a layman's primer on computer hacking in and of itself.
    • In the commentary on Chapter 14, the author describes trying out the cellphone hack himself several times with real equipment. This is evidently the case for all of the hacks depicted in the novel, but the cellphone one was noteworthy because of the fluidity of the cellphone market; the most appropriate burner phone available for sale kept changing as he was writing the manuscript, requiring him to repeatedly update the scene with revisions to the hacking technique.
  • In Firefly episode "Trash," how do the tech-savvy crew hack the garbage disposal drones? They literally fly up underneath it, yank out the low-end computer slotted into the side of the garbage container, and upload a new destination. Since it's a) on the underside of a floating city miles from shore and b)... well, garbage, the security on the computer is nonexistent anyway.
  • Interestingly, one point that Mega Man Battle Network shows correctly is that once in a while, Lan will encounter some kind of blockade or security gate that cannot be opened or bypassed by his side of the Internet, which will require him to jack out/log off and find an entry point that is situated behind the blockade. He also often has to directly connect to embedded systems that are not connected directly to the Internet by finding a way to get to a direct access port in the real world. The few times Lan connects wirelessly, he has access to either a wireless adapter kit made for his Navi or is in a room with a working wireless connection.
    • One simple little detail stands out: every game, Lan needs to acquire updated security passes to (re)gain access to his friends' protected home networks, as they probably change their passwords regularly and need to keep him updated.
    • Recurring villain Mr. Match utilizes a lot of common real tricks to launch his malware attacks, such as social engineering and purpose-built malware meant to attack specific hardware.
  • The episode of Limitless where Brian is learning to hack has him mention that he doesn't really know what "hacking" even is yet, just the montages he's seen in the movies. When he actually starts researching and studying it, he tells the audience how boring real hacking is and instead shows the viewers vines of explosions and stuff.
  • RWBY
    • In Volumes 2 and 3, both times where the villains hack the good guys' security systems, they have to physically fight their way to the administrator control terminals and then upload the viruses from their own machines. In the first case, the virus has administrator access and doesn't do anything obvious, so without anything to actually observe and trace (all it does is spread itself to other systems connected to the network, giving Cinder remote access to their machines), the good guys are left scratching their heads as to what the villains did. In the second case, no one has time to dig out the virus, because it turns their entire robot army against them.
    • In Volume 7, Arthur Watts is able to hack into Mantle's security systems because he wrote the security code and thus knows all of its exploits and backdoors. He can't access the more recently-updated security for Atlas because he didn't write that security code. In addition, in order to get access to Mantle's much more secure utility grid to shut off the heating systems, he has to get access codes from someone on the Atlas Council, so he rigs an election to get a corrupt businessman elected to the Council in exchange for the access codes.
    • In Volume 8, even Arthur Watts is unable to hack Penny because she has no wireless access that he can find. He only manages to do so by stealing one of her swords, installing malicious hardware into it, and then waiting for her to be connected to the CCT so she can reconnect with the sword. She manages to reboot herself and sever the connection, but her systems have already uploaded the virus and its basic commands. Lampshaded when Cinder asks him to bring Penny to her and he mocks her for thinking that he could telekinetically make Penny do whatever he wanted. There's also at least two cases of characters getting into the Atlesian military system by breaking into the administration room to access the terminals, first when Team Remnant needs some authorizations to launch Amity and later when Watts takes control of the systems to fulfill Cinder's plan.
  • Even though Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has unrealistic hacking for gameplay simplicity, there is a sidequest in which you help the Nosferatu hacker Mitnick expand his surveillance network, which he can't do just by typing into his personal computer. Each time, you have to sneak into a location and upload a program and discreetly connect a camera to the system of his target. Then you have to access the admin's computer terminal, bypass their security, and activate the program. Mitnick takes the rest from there, though he notes that if you're seen going in or out, the mission becomes moot.
  • The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds: Stephen performs some hacking by lying to a few people over the phone and using a simple phone app. It's explicitly noted that this is what real hacking tends to look like.
    Audrey: Rule number one of decryption: if you don't have to break the code, don't. People are usually far less secure than the encryption strategies they employ.
  • In Splinter Cell: Blacklist when The Engineers hack into The Paladin, they do so by injecting a Stuxnet-like worm into the plane's systems by letting Sam get his hands on an infected tablet which Charlie has to connect to the Paladin's systems to access. This is absolutely how most people's computers get infected by viruses in real life, via connecting to malicious sites, servers, or downloads. In order to fight it, Charlie does a factory reset to purge the virus. Again, this is a real (if desperate) means of getting rid of a virus from an infected machine. Bonus points in that the infected tablet probably wouldn't have been a threat had Charlie not bypassed some of their security protocols to speed up the data transfer, which again is pretty accurate to what makes some machines in real-life vulnerable to viruses.
  • Troy Hunt, of fame, once wrote a rather lengthy blog article poking fun at mainstream media's propensity to use FUD when dealing with literally anything pertaining to The Deep Web, including using the stereotypical Hollywood Hacker as a header image (a guy in a black hoodie, Cool Code of Source somewhere in the image and/or typing a whole lotta nothing on a computer). He also notes on the tail end of the article that an unsettling number of "database breaches" are really just unencrypted sensitive info on, ironically, "light web" URLs (that is, public-facing websites that aren't on Tor or other hidden networks).
  • In StarCrawlers, the Hacker's "viruses" are actually Nanomachines being programmed and deployed to attack enemies and support allies. In order to hack enemy systems, the Hacker needs physical access to terminals and security ports, and those only let them disable local security. Partway through the story missions, you will have an opportunity to repair a malfunctioning AI and in order to do so, you have to identify errors in the code using real-world knowledge of basic programming languages.
  • The Nameless Mod: While most hacking is just like the original Deus Ex, which is a "hack" button that appears on terminals whose usefulness depends on how developed the player's hacking skills are, there is one section where the player needs to gain access to an admin account that cannot be brute forced. Luckily, a user account on the same computer which the player does have access to has left the admin credentials for all to see in their email.
  • Real Genius The climactic moment of sabotage is ultimately accomplished by Tricking Kent into telling them where and when the test is being done, trying to hack the (1980's) military computer by brute forcing a password (which is expected to take 6 hours, including temporary lockouts due to too many wrong passwords, AND ultimately doesn't work), then using fake ids and social engineering to trick a guard into letting them onto the military base, and physically replacing a computer chip in the prototype with one the kids made that contains different targeting data. Also, since the people doing the hack had built the system themselves they could be assumed to know enough about the hardware they were dealing with to make a replacement part that would work.


Video Example(s):



Lordgenome's head performs a hack into the Anti-Spiral's computer network.

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Main / HollywoodHacking

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